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Murray Tucker, on Father Joe Tucker, Steelers/Penguins Broadcaster, 1936-1967

December 10, 2011

Murray Tucker:

First, can you tell us what inspired you to write the book Screamer – the story of your father’s broadcasting career with the Steelers and Penguins from the 1930’s-1960’s?

I was inspired to write the book, Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers when I read a response in a web site trivial pursuit question that bothered me. It asked: What team has only had two play-by-play announcers for forty years.

Based on the limit on years, the correct answer was the Steelers, Jack Fleming and Bill Hargrove. But the question should have added another 28 years, and the answer would have been the same, but then there would have been three. My father, Joe Tucker, was the forgotten voice.

There were several Steelers’ histories, so I wanted to look at sports broadcasting. I was surprised by the wealth of information my father had left and the candid look at his life it presented. The book is a biography.

What do you remember about how your father approached the business of radio broadcasting?

My father was a student of each sport he broadcasted. Unlike many in the field, today, he came prepared for each game. He did his homework and did not engage in trivial conversation. He was a “personality” and well respected by almost everyone he came in contact with.

Were broadcasters appreciated and seen as “personalities” then as they are today? How  did he distinguish himself to fans and the team?

The two other personalities I knew fairly well were Rosey Rosewell and Bob Prince. Of the three, my father never hid from the public and was the only one who maintained a published telephone number. TV has made commentators more personally recognized and subject to being bothered.

What are some of the most interesting experiences you remember your father/you having with those 60’s teams?

By the 60’s I was engaged in developing my doctoral studies and had limited time for anything else. Both Art and Dan Rooney did attend our wedding in August, 1964, but I had little contact with the football team. Dad referred to Art as “Prez” by virtue of his assuming the title of President when Bert Bell sold his interest and became Commissioner.

I did have access to the Press Room in the Civic Arena during intermissions of hockey games and enjoyed conversations with Jimmy Jordan of the Post-Gazette. John Harris who brought pro hockey to Pittsburgh in 1936 often joked with me. Like Art, Harris considered my father one of the reasons pro football and hockey could find a home in Pittsburgh-and they never forgot it. (How Dad started broadcasting football and hockey are two chapters in my book.).

The hockey team was the AHL Hornets that preceded the Pens.

What was his relationship with the front offices and players of both teams?

As a youngster, I accompanied Dad to the Steelers’ office in the Roosevelt Hotel. He was a fixture there and learned many things, some of which he reported, others he left to his notes such as the Dudley-Sutherland flare up that probably cost the Steelers at least one NFL championship in 1947.

After each Hornet game, we’d go to the locker room. The players knew me and I’d bump into them on the street on occasion. I’m not totally sure of this, but maybe you can ask him, I believe Dad was instrumental in Mr. Gordon becoming publicity director for the Penguins and recommending him to the Steelers when Ed Kiely moved into the front office as a V.P.

How did he get started in the broadcasting business – especially for two different sports?

Dad’s career actually started with baseball. Jack Craddock was supposed to do late Sunday games, but he was an evangelist and made significant money preaching. He left Dad with a late September game and the manager of the station saw the talent and saw in this Canadian the potential for hockey.

On a lark, the two of them had lunch with Art Rooney who had been campaigning with the more powerful stations to carry the reports on his team. Dad took on the job without pay and thus became the first announcer of the Steelers.

Who do you remember most as the biggest characters or personalities on those Steelers teams that you met or your father talked about, and what made them so?

I was a great fan of Lyn Chadnois and Ray Matthews and saw both of them at training camp. I was aware of the desire of Art Rooney Jr. to have Johnny Unitas as the back-up to Jimmy Finks. The coach never gave him a chance. The one player that made the greatest impression on me was Big Daddy Lipscomb. Harrison reminds me of the way that guy played.

Dad talked openly about how he admired the punter, Pat Brady, whose hang time was probably greater than anyone today, Bobby Layne, who didn’t wear shoulder pads and Jack Butler who did on defense what his most admired player, Bill Dudley, did in that spot ten years before. Dudley held Steelers records (and may still) for many years both offense and defense.

Why did your father stop broadcasting in the late 60’s?

The most immediate reason for stopping broadcasting was that he had several heart attacks that left him disabled. You’ll have to read the full story in my book.

Did you at any point consider following in his footsteps and developing your own broadcasting career? Why/why not?

When I was fifteen, I considered going into announcing. Dad’s boss, Ben Muros, dissuaded me for which I am eternally grateful. The business was getting increasingly tough and Dad was hanging in there, barely-but I didn’t know the full story until I read his notes. I left Pittsburgh for good in 1966.

How can fans order the book?

The book is available through Amazon. There may still be copies at the Heinz Museum Bookstore I have a few copies that I could sign if so desired. Contact me through my business email: murtuc1@comcast.net

Readers can get a flavor of the book, old pictures and some other insights by visiting my website: www.murraytuckerwriter.com

Any last thoughts for readers?

I have been a fan of the Steelers all my life. I am more of a fan of hockey than football and watch as many games as I can (just about every one).

Thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 12, 2012 10:02 pm

    I loved listening to Joe Tucker as a kid in the late 50’s, early 60’s. We had a huge console that housed a 13″ B&W TV; a combo AM only (I think) radio and Victorla; and a storage for 78 rpm records. I wasn’t crazy about it back then, but I wish I had it now. I would lie on the floor in the dark and listen. Tucker had one of those great radio voices. He was also a tremendous broadcaster doing both play-by-play and color (which they didn’t have in those days.) He wasted no words. No inane, superfluous commentary like we are subjected to today, His insights and explanations were flawless. Laying there, eyes closed, was almost like being there. Every ‘cut’ that Tom ‘the Bomb’ Tracey made, or in-stride catch by Buddy Dial, or block that Ernie Stautner made was perfectly described for one’s ‘mind’s eye.’

    I wish I knew how to get a recording (if one exists) of a game that he announced. It should be required listening by all of our announcers. I will quickly add that Jack Fleming was also terrific and Bill Hargrove is very good.

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